Our family has been sick lately. I know it is the change in the seasons, and the fact my son has a new goal in life to never use soap. But that doesn’t stop it from being an endurance contest for me as a mother. My sweet boy has been throwing up for several days with his most recent illness. Let me tell you that is NOT fun! He still has yet to master hitting the bucket when he barfs, especially at night. During the day he was pretty good! But at night I had to sleep on his floor and grab the bucket and try to catch what I could.
Sometimes I succeeded, sometimes he got to take a shower and we got to change the whole bed, multiple times a night. He created piles of laundry and made me think deeply about the role of mothers, the service we give, and the blessing we are to our families.
Even though in the middle of the night I felt like a night watchman for puke, I was doing a valuable service for my son. A couple times he would be too asleep to wake up as he was throwing up. And turning him on his side so he didn’t breathe in his barf was my life saving service for him.
The recent election has many of my fellow sisters in mourning. They feel that the new America will not value women. But I have to remind everyone that women have always had great value, for not one single soul on earth got here without a woman. Not one. And every adult was at one time someone’s child. No matter how powerful the man, there were nights as he grew up, that his mother sat by his bed and kept him alive through a terrible flu or worse. Every last one of us is indebted to our mothers.
In an October 2015 Conference talk titled Behold Thy Mother Elder Holland said:
Today I declare from this pulpit what has been said here before: that no love in mortality comes closer to approximating the pure love of Jesus Christ than the selfless love a devoted mother has for her child. When Isaiah, speaking Messianically, wanted to convey Jehovah’s love, he invoked the image of a mother’s devotion. “Can a woman forget her sucking child?” he asks. How absurd, he implies, though not as absurd as thinking Christ will ever forget us.
I remember hearing this talk and feeling the love of my Heavenly Father as Elder Holland spoke. I felt how much God valued my efforts to help my family grow and thrive. And it was beautiful. But as I sat there in the middle of the night, for multiple nights, his words took on new strength. I realized that there is more to motherhood than bearing a child.
Kids come with a completely blank slate. They don’t know how to speak, and their muscles are too weak to do anything for themselves. They sometimes don’t even know how to eat on their own. And slowly, we teach them everything they need to know. When my son was a newborn I had to keep a schedule of when he ate, slept, and filled a diaper.
And slowly his cries began to sound different to me. I could tell a hungry cry from a bored or angry cry. It was like learning a new language. Every new thing he learned to do became a victory. I could see the light in his eyes and the pride as he figured out how to clap, and hold a spoon, and eventually walk and run. The pure joy on a child’s face as they run around still takes my breath away.
I sat at my Mom’s kitchen table recently as we preserved some peaches from a tree in my backyard. I am learning to cherish these times with her. I mentioned to her how much effort motherhood was taking for me. And she looked me in the eye, motioned to the work we were doing at the table, and said “It never ends”. My sweet, retired mother, is taking the time to teach me how to freeze dry produce so our family has a better supply of longer term food storage. It’s not something I would have put into a “Mommy Manual,” but there it is. My mother is still teaching me. Let’s be honest though, I never felt like I had known it all, so that didn’t come as a surprise.
I want to take a moment to encourage you. If you are a brand new mother trying to figure out what your child’s cries mean. If you are a veteran mother who has raised your children. If you are a single father feeling like this is all way too hard. You can do it. Elder Holland said that the love we show through our service to our families is like the love of the Savior. And I’ve felt the truth of his words. Keep up the good work. Keep trying.
Eventually there will be victories and you can more on to the next challenge. But all along the way God is with you. He is cheering you on. And one day, when we get to have our glorious heavenly graduation ceremony, we will look back fondly on our service. And we will see that our all night vigils by the side of a sick child’s bed were actually great blessings because of the spiritual growth they provided.
Patty thrives on all things creative. You’ll often find her in the garden pretending she is a suburban farmer. She loves meeting new people, and is devoted to her friends and family. In her heart she is a Midwesterner even though life has moved her all over the country. She believes in “blooming where you’re planted” and has found purpose in every place she has been. She has a deep and abiding love for the Savior and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And she loves editing LDS Blogs because it is a constant spiritual uplift. Not many people can say their job builds their witness of the Savior.